Elle: So here's how it went down. Webb and Nathan were getting all chatty about an Ultra team, and then Webb informed me that I would be running on it.
Elle: "But that's a LOT of running, I don't know if..."
Webb: "You're on the team. Accept it."
|Captain Nathan and the|
Team Ultra Thirst van
Webb: "Hey! Check this out! I'm going to run RTB with Nathan as an ultra. You should do it too!"
Elle: "That is a lot of running. I don't know if ..."
Webb: "Pssshaww. You could totally do it. We'll make it part of our training."
Elle: "I hate you."
We were Team Ultra Thirst. Nathan had run relays with Team Powerthirst in the past. They were inspired by this - um, not sure what to call it - advertisement? Team Powerthirst had a standard team running in this relay, so Nathan modified our team name accordingly.
Elle: This fake ad for a drink called 'Powerthirst' is freaking hilarious. It's so funny, a company actually started making the drink.
Reach the Beach - Massachusetts
Mt. Wachusett to Horseneck Beach in Westport, MA.
Webb: Friday we woke up at 5AM to load up the car and pick up Jason so we could be at the van rental space by 7AM. We met Nathan and Corey there and were on the road by 8AM to meet up with Jen at the start line. Since this rag-tag group came together last minute we did not have an opportunity to put together a proper strategy. Everyone was game to do things on the fly. All we had was a batting order: 1- Corey, 2- Nathan, 3- Jason, 4- Elle, 5- Webb, 6- Jen.
Elle: With about a week before the race, Nathan informed us that we had just lost half of our team. You have to have at least 4 to be allowed to run, but you still had to cover the 200 miles. And even if I could run ~30 miles, there was no way I could run 50! So we scrambled and sounded the social media alarm - we needed runners, pronto! We acquired Corey from the 'Reach the Beach' forum where runners go to find a team to be on. Sweet. Then my good 'ol friend Jason, who's always coming through, offered to join us. The final piece of the puzzle came together with less than 24 hours before the race start in the form of ultra-runner Jen Barker. And Team Ultra Thirst was born. Again.
|This is why we run.|
Webb: Leg #5 (7.69 miles). My first run was 7.69 miles of rolling hills. The plan was to keep my HR in zones 1-2 both to ensure I'd be able to do all of my future legs and to do some good aerobic towards our priority race.
|Look, it's Ultra-Runner Jen Barker!|
- Runners must wear reflective vests and blinking lights and carry a flashlights or wear headlamps when running between the hours of 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM.
Webb: Legs #12 & #13 (10.66 miles). On the fly, the van discussed me running legs #12 and #13 back-to-back. I didn't ask but they were described as "easy" and "moderate." Knights of Columbus! that was the hardest "easy" and "moderate" running I have ever done. Nay, it was the hardest running I have ever done. Two days later the best reason I can come up with is nutrition - both before and on the run.
I ran most of Leg #12 pretty well even though my legs were not recovered fully from Run #1. My tired legs were a good reminder to keep it easy. I stayed on task and kept the effort level reasonable, until the last mile or so when things started to get a bit dodgy.
|Leg #12: Sometimes Hell ...|
Leg #13 had other ideas. From the get-go I had to climb out of Hopkinton State Park. After a half-mile the road descended and some life came back into my legs. I caught the woman in front of me and we began to chat. I had not looked at the profiles of any of the legs. I intended to run whatever the course gave me. She told me she was conserving her energy for the hill up ahead. "Oh. What hill?" I asked.
|Leg #13: ... is up above you.|
Elle: Leg #18 (4.15 miles, 8:09 minute/mile). Since this leg was a bit shorter, I was able to speed up my pace. Running at night is fun in one way, but also frustrating, when the road conditions are patching and pot-holey, and you only have a small halo of light to lead the way. But it was mostly a nice run. I was glad, however, to see the transition area up ahead and looked forward to passing off to Webb. So I ran in with a big finish, as I like to do, and....wait.....where's Webb? Where's my team? Not there. I waited for awhile before one of the RTB transition volunteers asked me if I wanted to use his phone. So I called Webb.
Webb: Meanwhile back at the van. "Webb, your phone is ringing?"
"Huh? Wha?" <hmmm, I don't know this number. Oh no.> "Hello? You are HERE??? ok ok ok ok ok ok, I'll be right there." That is the extent of my memory on that. And it could be wrong. I had fallen asleep after my big run and pizza feast. I also remember that I did not know where the exchange area was in relation to the van or where I was supposed to run once Elle passed off the baton.
Webb: Leg #19 (6.51 miles). One look at Elle standing there waiting for who-knows-how-long struck me with indescribable guilt. I didn't have time to apologize because I didn't know where I was or what to do and just wanted her to get out of the exchange chute. A volunteer pointed me in the right direction and off I went.
Do not inhale pizza and expect to run well within the next few hours. My body was terribly angry with me. Too much work. Not enough rest. Pizza and cookies lazing around in my belly. I'd guess about two miles in I realized if I wasn't going to be able to sleep, I'd need to make it a recovery run. I slowed waaaaaay down and began walking the tougher sections of hills. It actually felt great to walk up the hills. I was getting a good stretch and started to feel a little normal again. Every now and then I would tell myself to pick up the pace and finish the stupid leg. Then I would think, hey, if this allows the team to catch a few more minutes of sleep, that is not so bad. Plus, I didn't have any more pace left in me.
|Borderland Park Trail:|
Would you run down this trail at night?
Gawd, how much longer is this freaking trail?!? Oh, there's a blinking light up ahead, maybe it's another runner, oh, thank you! OH wait, it's just a light attached to a sign? Arrgghhh! Oh, there's a clearing, some starlight at least. Oh gawd, what's that sound?
In the middle of the leg there was a brief clearing where a swamp hosted the loudest barking bullfrogs I've ever heard.
Finally, I did see the 'light at the end of the tunnel', and I exited the 'Ichabod Crane' horror run. I was so glad to finally be running into transition and to see a friendly face. But what's this? No Webb? No team? Abandoned again?!? This time I didn't wait, I asked a volunteer to use his phone and I called Webb. It rang and rang, and then I saw Webb, running across the parking lot towards me. I was just glad it was all over.
Webb: Leg #25 (3.48 miles). Right out of the gate this one looked like it was going to be bad. Since Elle's leg was through the park, we had no idea where she was. Once we arrived at TA18 we tried to determine when we thought she would arrive. We figured we had 5-10 minutes. I jumped out of the driver's seat and began putting on my reflective gear, bib number, etc. Then Jason says, "Oh no. I think she is here. Your phone is ringing." DAMN! I grabbed the blinking-red light, clipped onto my race belt and ran to the exchange chute. On the way over it flew off, with pieces scattering across the parking lot. I gathered up the batteries, housing and lens and ran to meet Elle. I assembled the cursed thing, took the 'baton' and ran into the night.
Once again, the guilt was upon me, even though I had not fallen asleep. It was simply a convergence of a long and mostly slow-going van route to the Transition Area and Elle likely setting a PR while she was running for her life. I headed off on the short run on stiff, aching knees. After about a mile I stopped (to pick up the stupid light again) and that seemed to loosen up my knees. I finished strong and feeling like I'd be able to run again someday.
A quick side note: After my run, I heard another team talking about the Borderland State Park leg. One of the runners said she thought she was running in "The Walking Dead."
Elle: Leg #31 (5.85 miles, 8:09 minute/mile pace) The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, this is what it's all about. As I ran along, I started to feel sad that this adventure was coming to an end, so I tried to cherish every mile. I must have run smart, because I wasn't having any real pain issues, I felt tired, and a little sore, for sure, but nothing that I couldn't handle. And the best part? Webb actually made it to transition in time for the hand-off, good job, honey.
Webb: Leg #32 (6.76 miles). There was no way I was not going to be at the exchange. Even Nathan was on me to make sure I was there in time. I actually had time to do some dynamic stretching and Mister Miyagi'ing of my knees. That did wonders! The first mile was still tough because it was hot and dry, and because I kept being passed by others. Didn't matter because there wasn't anything I could do about it. I put it into cruise control and hammed it up with the other vans who cheered me along the way. It was probably my second best run of the trip. I came into TA32 feeling good knowing it was about to be over. And of course, there was Elle, once again, waiting for me at the exchange.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON 'REACH THE BEACH - MA' 2012
Elle: A great, fun time with an awesome team and fantastic weather. I loved it. I didn't know how I was going to handle running 30 miles, but when you have 24+ hours to do it, and get some rest in between, not so bad...
Webb: Relays are all about the van. It was a tough, painful adventure and totally worth it because of Team UltraThirst. I would not hesitate to jam myself into a van for 24 plus hours with these guys again. One last thing: Reach The Beach dominates Ragnar when it comes to creating a fun, safe and well-supported environment.